Jump to content
Cruise Critic Community
cocopico

Review of Cities of Antiquity & Holy Land Cruise

Recommended Posts

We recently returned from the two-week "Cities of Antiquity and Holy Land" cruise aboard the Viking Jupiter.  The Jupiter, only in service for about a month when we boarded, still had that "new cruise ship" smell -- who knew?  We saw no evidence of its brief and unplanned encounter with the pier in Athens.  This was our fifth Viking Ocean trip, so the ship was very familiar to us.  A few minor tweaks (the main cabin lights can now be dimmed so you don't feel like you're in an operating theater, the bathroom heated floors can be put on a timer, and there are a set of drawers in the PV1 closet that weren't there on previous ships) but for the most part the ship was very familiar.  There is a "planetarium", as on the Orion, which really didn't affect the access to the second floor of the Explorers' Lounge too much, and unlike some on the forum who have complained about the quality of the movies, we found the 3D movies to be interesting and well done.  (My favorite, though, was the 3D Trailer they showed at the beginning of each movie!)  We saw all three movies that were offered and every time the theater was full.  I recommend making your reservations early in the cruise if you have concerns about being "sold out."  And, as others have pointed out before, it is definitely best to sit as far back and toward the center as possible.  On that point, I note that on our cruise folks lined up to enter the theater about 15 minutes before the show started to get good seats.  Of course, our cruise was essentially sold out, with 926 passengers on board.

 

Speaking of 926 passengers . . . this was our second sold-out cruise and both times we never felt crowded at all on the ship.  There were always quiet places to get away from folks if you wanted and we never waited for meals.  Service in the World Cafe was sometimes a little slow (it felt like there were maybe a few crew members short up there) but it was not enough to be bothersome.  Events in the Star Theater, even some port talks, were standing room only and, as with the planetarium, folks would get there up to 30 minutes early to assure a good seat. 

 

The crew was great, as always.  We were a little nervous about taking an early cruise on a new ship but our concerns were quickly allayed.  Viking brings a good number of "old hands" on shorter contracts (5 months) to assure consistent service on new ships.   We even saw some familiar faces from our very first cruise on the Star.  

 

We enjoyed the itinerary and, despite being on a "quiet season" cruise (our second) the weather was mostly great.  We did have rain and high winds in Israel which caused the captain to decide to stay in Haifa for three days rather than moving to Ashdod for the final day.  That was a last minute decision and the shorex folks did a great job of compensating and making sure all the planned trips, especially to Jerusalem, went off as scheduled.  It made for some long days since Jerusalem is about two hours from Haifa, as opposed to one hour from Ashdod.  We had rented a car in Haifa and planned to spend the night in Jerusalem on our own and then turn the car in in Ashdod.  The folks on the ship did a great job of tracking us down, both by cell phone and by leaving messages at our hotel, to let us know we needed to come back to Haifa to catch the ship.  (It would have been a disaster if they hadn't reached us and we showed up in Ashdod only to find no Jupiter!)  I can't speak to the Israel-based shore excursions since we did everything on our own, but we had a great time.  Rental car was cheap, even though Hertz, and they had no problem when we showed up unannounced in Haifa to return a car that was supposed to be turned in in Ashdod.

 

We did a mix of included and paid shore excursions and all were fine.  My biggest gripe, which I have voiced often, is that Viking should tell you up front how long you are going to spend on a bus on one of their shore excursions.  They clearly have those details, but only reveal that you are going to spend three of your six hour shore excursion on the bus at the port talk, when it is too late to cancel.   I've heard from a number of folks who have found this annoying.  I try and check Google maps to get an idea of travel time from port to "attractions" listed in the descriptions, but that isn't always very accurate since you don't know the route they are going to take.  I don't mind a bus ride, but if I'm going to be spending more than an hour one-way, I'd like to know that before signing up.  Otherwise, though, we enjoyed the excursions.   We particularly like the "drive your own 4x4 experience" on Mykonos.  Some folks were disappointed because they were expecting ATVs.  Instead, we were greeted with Hertz rental cars, mostly medium SUVs, ranging from BMWs to Audis to Jeeps.  We were told in advance that the driver had to be able to handle stick shifts, but we ended up with a very nice Puegot with automatic transmission.  The roads we went on were pretty bumpy, so it was nice to have the "luxury car suspension!  The guide, who is apparently the only one that does this excursion, was great.  I was happy not to be returning to the ship covered in dust and grime, which would likely have been the case if we were in ATVs. 

 

While on the subject of shore excursions -- if you do "Rome on Your Own" and want to visit St. Peter's or the Vatican Museums without a guide, definitely buy the "skip the line" tickets you can get online.  We were able to avoid a two-hour line to get into St. Peter's, which gave us more time to see other things.  It costs about $20 but is well worth it if you are pressed for time (or just hate standing in a two-hour line!). 

 

We had a couple of new experiences on board that were also very well received.  There was a huge brunch in the Winter Garden/Pool area on a sea day that was just fantastic.  The crew worked all night moving furniture and preparing it, but it was well worth it for the passengers.  We had not experienced this on Viking before, although I was told they had done it a few times on other cruises.  We also seemed to have more "specialty" nights where, in addition to the regular restaurants, they set up a buffet at the front of the pool deck, near the movie screen.  Lots of fresh fish and local dishes were served.  It was nice, and probably relieved some of the crowding that might have otherwise occurred in the World Cafe.  Finally, and something no one I talked to had experienced before, there was a "chocolate feast" the night before we arrived at our last port.  They had huge tables covered with chocolate candies in the Living Room at the base of the main staircase.  Tons of chocolate, including giant chunks of different kinds of chocolate to sample, all kinds of chocolate confections, chocolate fountains and fresh strawberries, etc.  It was pretty amazing!

 

All in all, it was a great trip and I would highly recommend the itinerary.  The three sea days (on a two-week cruise) were well-spaced so that you could "recover" from some long port stays.  The weather, except for Israel, was very good and going in the off season really helped avoid some of the crowds.  If anyone has any particular questions about this cruise, please let me know.  For those who are interested, I've posted some photos from the trip here:

 

https://milsteen.smugmug.com/Travel/Viking-Mediterranean-Cities-of-Antiquity-and-the-Holy-Land

 

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Dear @cocopico,

 

Thank you for taking the time to provide the cruising community with an overview of your time aboard Viking Jupiter! It is delightful to learn of your overall enchantment, although we do recognize your concerns regarding more advanced notice of time spent on motor coaches during shore excursions. We’ve taken note of your constructive feedback for further review, however we would love to hear from you at TellUs@vikingcruises.com should you like to share more about your journey. 

 

We appreciate this chance to learn about your Viking experience, and look forward to many more voyages together.

 

Warmest,
Viking Cruises
 

 

3 hours ago, cocopico said:

We recently returned from the two-week "Cities of Antiquity and Holy Land" cruise aboard the Viking Jupiter.  The Jupiter, only in service for about a month when we boarded, still had that "new cruise ship" smell -- who knew?  We saw no evidence of its brief and unplanned encounter with the pier in Athens.  This was our fifth Viking Ocean trip, so the ship was very familiar to us.  A few minor tweaks (the main cabin lights can now be dimmed so you don't feel like you're in an operating theater, the bathroom heated floors can be put on a timer, and there are a set of drawers in the PV1 closet that weren't there on previous ships) but for the most part the ship was very familiar.  There is a "planetarium", as on the Orion, which really didn't affect the access to the second floor of the Explorers' Lounge too much, and unlike some on the forum who have complained about the quality of the movies, we found the 3D movies to be interesting and well done.  (My favorite, though, was the 3D Trailer they showed at the beginning of each movie!)  We saw all three movies that were offered and every time the theater was full.  I recommend making your reservations early in the cruise if you have concerns about being "sold out."  And, as others have pointed out before, it is definitely best to sit as far back and toward the center as possible.  On that point, I note that on our cruise folks lined up to enter the theater about 15 minutes before the show started to get good seats.  Of course, our cruise was essentially sold out, with 926 passengers on board.

 

Speaking of 926 passengers . . . this was our second sold-out cruise and both times we never felt crowded at all on the ship.  There were always quiet places to get away from folks if you wanted and we never waited for meals.  Service in the World Cafe was sometimes a little slow (it felt like there were maybe a few crew members short up there) but it was not enough to be bothersome.  Events in the Star Theater, even some port talks, were standing room only and, as with the planetarium, folks would get there up to 30 minutes early to assure a good seat. 

 

The crew was great, as always.  We were a little nervous about taking an early cruise on a new ship but our concerns were quickly allayed.  Viking brings a good number of "old hands" on shorter contracts (5 months) to assure consistent service on new ships.   We even saw some familiar faces from our very first cruise on the Star.  

 

We enjoyed the itinerary and, despite being on a "quiet season" cruise (our second) the weather was mostly great.  We did have rain and high winds in Israel which caused the captain to decide to stay in Haifa for three days rather than moving to Ashdod for the final day.  That was a last minute decision and the shorex folks did a great job of compensating and making sure all the planned trips, especially to Jerusalem, went off as scheduled.  It made for some long days since Jerusalem is about two hours from Haifa, as opposed to one hour from Ashdod.  We had rented a car in Haifa and planned to spend the night in Jerusalem on our own and then turn the car in in Ashdod.  The folks on the ship did a great job of tracking us down, both by cell phone and by leaving messages at our hotel, to let us know we needed to come back to Haifa to catch the ship.  (It would have been a disaster if they hadn't reached us and we showed up in Ashdod only to find no Jupiter!)  I can't speak to the Israel-based shore excursions since we did everything on our own, but we had a great time.  Rental car was cheap, even though Hertz, and they had no problem when we showed up unannounced in Haifa to return a car that was supposed to be turned in in Ashdod.

 

We did a mix of included and paid shore excursions and all were fine.  My biggest gripe, which I have voiced often, is that Viking should tell you up front how long you are going to spend on a bus on one of their shore excursions.  They clearly have those details, but only reveal that you are going to spend three of your six hour shore excursion on the bus at the port talk, when it is too late to cancel.   I've heard from a number of folks who have found this annoying.  I try and check Google maps to get an idea of travel time from port to "attractions" listed in the descriptions, but that isn't always very accurate since you don't know the route they are going to take.  I don't mind a bus ride, but if I'm going to be spending more than an hour one-way, I'd like to know that before signing up.  Otherwise, though, we enjoyed the excursions.   We particularly like the "drive your own 4x4 experience" on Mykonos.  Some folks were disappointed because they were expecting ATVs.  Instead, we were greeted with Hertz rental cars, mostly medium SUVs, ranging from BMWs to Audis to Jeeps.  We were told in advance that the driver had to be able to handle stick shifts, but we ended up with a very nice Puegot with automatic transmission.  The roads we went on were pretty bumpy, so it was nice to have the "luxury car suspension!  The guide, who is apparently the only one that does this excursion, was great.  I was happy not to be returning to the ship covered in dust and grime, which would likely have been the case if we were in ATVs. 

 

While on the subject of shore excursions -- if you do "Rome on Your Own" and want to visit St. Peter's or the Vatican Museums without a guide, definitely buy the "skip the line" tickets you can get online.  We were able to avoid a two-hour line to get into St. Peter's, which gave us more time to see other things.  It costs about $20 but is well worth it if you are pressed for time (or just hate standing in a two-hour line!). 

 

We had a couple of new experiences on board that were also very well received.  There was a huge brunch in the Winter Garden/Pool area on a sea day that was just fantastic.  The crew worked all night moving furniture and preparing it, but it was well worth it for the passengers.  We had not experienced this on Viking before, although I was told they had done it a few times on other cruises.  We also seemed to have more "specialty" nights where, in addition to the regular restaurants, they set up a buffet at the front of the pool deck, near the movie screen.  Lots of fresh fish and local dishes were served.  It was nice, and probably relieved some of the crowding that might have otherwise occurred in the World Cafe.  Finally, and something no one I talked to had experienced before, there was a "chocolate feast" the night before we arrived at our last port.  They had huge tables covered with chocolate candies in the Living Room at the base of the main staircase.  Tons of chocolate, including giant chunks of different kinds of chocolate to sample, all kinds of chocolate confections, chocolate fountains and fresh strawberries, etc.  It was pretty amazing!

 

All in all, it was a great trip and I would highly recommend the itinerary.  The three sea days (on a two-week cruise) were well-spaced so that you could "recover" from some long port stays.  The weather, except for Israel, was very good and going in the off season really helped avoid some of the crowds.  If anyone has any particular questions about this cruise, please let me know.  For those who are interested, I've posted some photos from the trip here:

 

https://milsteen.smugmug.com/Travel/Viking-Mediterranean-Cities-of-Antiquity-and-the-Holy-Land

 

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Cocopico, great review and outstanding photos. Thanks for posting. What type of camera did you use?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
3 hours ago, cocopico said:

For those who are interested, I've posted some photos from the trip here:

 

https://milsteen.smugmug.com/Travel/Viking-Mediterranean-Cities-of-Antiquity-and-the-Holy-Land

 

 

Take a minute or two to look at cocopico's photos. He is a very lucky photographer who manages time after time after time to be in the right spot at the right time to get THE picture of the moment.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, Peregrina651 said:

 

Take a minute or two to look at cocopico's photos. He is a very lucky photographer who manages time after time after time to be in the right spot at the right time to get THE picture of the moment.

Thanks for the kind comment, and for being such a GREAT resource on this forum!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, Peregrina651 said:

 

Take a minute or two to look at cocopico's photos. He is a very lucky photographer who manages time after time after time to be in the right spot at the right time to get THE picture of the moment.

 

Yes, they are just wonderful. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Great pictures.  Thank you for the review.  This itinerary is on the bucket list.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I was excited to see your post, as I have seen photos you posted previously of another trip. I was anxious to view your latest batch. You did not disappoint! Thanks for sharing your obvious talent with us.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

First, let me state your photos are fantastic. I was excited to see your review and and of course the photos.  I’m booked on this cruise in late 2020, and looking forwarded to it.  Yours review and photos only make me more excited.

 

Thanks for posting. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for the kind comments about my photographs. VJMAZZ, I use a Nikon D850, and sometimes just my iPhone.  Thanks. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
6 hours ago, cocopico said:

Thanks for the kind comments about my photographs. VJMAZZ, I use a Nikon D850, and sometimes just my iPhone.  Thanks. 

It’s all about the way the photographer sees the world rather than the camera they use. And you see it beautifully. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Gorgeous pictures.  Thank you for sharing.  This itinerary has now been added to the list of ones I want to do.  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for the great review.  Do you happen to remember the cost of the optional excursions?  Trying to decide 

 

thanks,

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 6/15/2019 at 10:03 AM, knoxclone said:

Thanks for the great review.  Do you happen to remember the cost of the optional excursions?  Trying to decide 

 

thanks,

I don't remember the costs of all the optional excursions -- they will be posted when the shorex are posted and you will have time to review them before the date you have to make your reservations.  I have attached, though, a list of the shore excursions we took and their price.  (We ended up cancelling the Haifa included tour, opting to do that on our own instead.)  Hope this helps.1771884667_HolyLandShorexPrices.JPG.13ffeaebb79ce1260016db5199d7769f.JPG

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

We have booked this for 2020 - I appreciate your review and pictures! Any additional suggestions on the excursions would be welcomed.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

We booked this one for 2020 too. Thanks for the detailed review and pics.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Forum Jump
    • Categories
      • Q&A with the Coral Expeditions Team
      • Forum Assistance
      • New Cruisers
      • Cruise Lines “A – O”
      • Cruise Lines “P – Z”
      • River Cruising
      • ROLL CALLS
      • Digital Photography & Cruise Technology
      • Member Cruise Reviews
      • Special Interest Cruising
      • Cruise Discussion Topics
      • UK Cruising
      • Australia & New Zealand Cruisers
      • North American Homeports
      • Ports of Call
      • Cruise Conversations
×
×
  • Create New...